Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Small, Dull, Partially Broken Little Tools

If you're a non-American who's been watching the American news cycle over the last twenty-four hours - or frankly, almost any time recently - we empathize with your likely confusion and frustration. We agree with your likely conclusion, that the mainstream U.S. news media appears to be more than a bit broken right now.

How else would you explain a supposed "news" media that focuses intently on a ban on sugared soft drinks being overturned in New York City, while barely blinking an eye about the ongoing sequestration cuts that are hurting Americans more and more every day, nationwide?

We understand the reticence of our media colleagues in focusing on the next round in the federal budget battles. They're worried about clicks and ratings, and the audience getting bored. Frankly, we've all seen Republican Paul Ryan's fantasy budget plan before. Sure, Ryan's presentation is even more dishonest then the first two times he rolled it out, and he's only pushing it out now, ahead of his performance at the big CPAC convention later this week. The facts of his plan haven't really changed, though. Americans still aren't going to buy into Ryan's plan - something they made crystal clear through the outcome of the 2012 elections.

So where should our American mainstream media be focused? Gun safety legislation? Immigration? Climate change? All of these are valuable topics, with newsworthy items happening right now.

Instead of paying attention to any of those issues, however, many of those in our mainstream national "news" media have been reporting on something much smaller - specifically, whether you can now carry a compact pocket knife through the TSA checkpoint at the airport.

In case you missed it last week, the TSA announced it was making a change to official policy that will soon allow previously banned items to pass through TSA checkpoints, like folding pocket knives with blades shorter than 2.36 inches, small souvenir baseball bats, and some sports equipment, like hockey sticks and pool cues. Strangely, box cutters will still be banned.

Of course, there's already been the prerequisite storm of controversy about the TSA change from the families of 9/11 victims, from flight attendants and pilots, from airline executives and even average passengers. Still, the TSA is standing by its decision, something they'll have to do more of later this week in front of a hearing of the House Homeland Security Committee.

We understand the concern for the safety of both passengers and those who work "in the friendly skies," and we're certainly not trying to downplay the importance of safe air travel - especially as members of our own staff gear up to fly to some spring travel events.

What we are trying to point out here is the incompetence of many of our media colleagues.

Ten years ago this week, singer Natalie Maines used her freedom of speech to blast then-President Bush for trying to drag our nation into an unnecessary and unwise war with Iraq, by partially abandoning efforts in Afghanistan to pursue the leaders of Al-Qaeda. President Bush and his administration, led from misinformation by then-Vice President Dick Cheney, did exactly what Ms. Maines feared when they entered that war with Iraq, about a week after her comments.

A decade later, while our major media organizations are still focused on items like pocket knives and shoes, we still have Americans dying in Afghanistan, while those who bamboozled us into war, and took their eyes off the conflict in Afghanistan, will likely never be prosecuted for starting a war under false pretenses.

We'll agree today, that Americans should be very concerned about the misuse of small, dull, broken little tools.

We're just not talking about pocket knives.